Holy Spirit, now outpoured
Pentecost Sunday, 2020
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Our sermon today is the story of Pentecost, the story that we now know is one full of power and the glory of Christ.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
1,990 years and fifty days ago, or thereabouts, Jesus rose from the dead. 40 days after that, he ascended into heaven. 10 days after that, the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles with power on the day called Pentecost, and 3,000 were added to their number that day, and the next days more and more people came to faith and the ones that didn’t come to faith saw them and were in wonder.
Today is Pentecost Sunday, the day when we celebrate how the Holy Spirit came in a mighty rushing wind filling the house of the apostles with the presence of God. Today we celebrate how the Holy Spirit divided like tongues of fire among the apostles, filling them with power. Today we celebrate how the Holy Spirit gave the power to undo the curse of Babel, allowing the apostles to speak in all languages, undoing the confusion and frustration that happens when the person you’re speaking to can’t understand what you’re saying.
Today is also the first day we’ve been back in our Sanctuary since March. The first time when we can gather in this sacred space to receive the good gifts of our God.
Today ought to be a triumphant day, but it doesn’t quite live up to that.
Because not too far away from here is a family who found their dad just got called up to service again, now in the twin cities. They’re scared. They don’t know what’s going to happen. Today doesn't feel like a victory to them.
Not too far away from them is a family whose angry, angry at justice gone wrong, angry that they can’t escape a cycle that’s much larger than they are. They can’t get away; they’re caught in the middle; today doesn’t feel like a victory to them.
And not too far away from them are all kinds of people watching, waiting, anxious and fearful, wanting to do something, wanting to be part of a solution rather than a problem, sick to their stomach without any way how to know what to do, and the preacher’s up here preaching about victory. Today doesn’t feel like a victory to them.
Three powers that the Holy Spirit grants to God’s people. The ways that we would once again listen to the steady and calm voice of our Savior in the middle of the chaos that our world has always been.
First, he gives the power to receive the forgiveness of Christ. Notice who speaks on Pentecost Sunday. It’s Peter. Peter the impetuous. Peter who denied. Peter who wept bitterly. Peter who was reinstated with the words, “Peter, do you love me? Feed my sheep.”
His denial tracks with Judas’s betrayal. Jesus predicts both. Both do as Jesus predicts. Both instantly regret their actions. But when Judas despairs, Peter is forgiven.
Why? Because we don’t even have the ability to receive the forgiveness of Christ without the power of the Holy Spirit. We are helpless in every way. We are dead in our trespasses until the wind of the Holy Spirit makes us a live in Christ.
It’s Peter that speaks on Pentecost. The forgiven, the beloved, the sinner-made-saint, the denier whose Lord is faithful, and look what God does when the power of the Holy Spirit gives you the ability to receive the forgiveness of Christ; your whole life becomes a statement of who Christ is.
Second, the Holy Spirit gives the power to bridge the confusion of Babel. Way back in Genesis 11, the descendants of Noah decided to make a name for themselves and God confused their languages. From them came all the languages of the world, and all the confusion that comes with them.
Confusion. Chaos. Just one aspect to what we call sin. People cannot understand one another anymore, not without extreme measures.
But for that moment, as the apostles lifted up their voices, all the nations around them could hear and understand. There was nothing lost in translation. There was no more confusion. The curse of Babel was undone for a time.
Third, The Holy Spirit gives the power to bear the cross of Christ. Notice Peter’s opening Scripture reference. It’s Joel chapter 2, in these last days. He’s saying what Lutherans say, which is that everyone who’s lived ever since Jesus ascended into heaven has lived in the endtimes, in the last days. Things will get worse before they get better. Remember that the apostles didn’t know how their lives would end. They did not know that at the end of this speech 3,000 would be added to their numbers. Seven chapters later, they didn’t know that they would be fleeing for their lives after Stephen died. They didn’t know if they would survive. They didn’t know that St. Paul would be the greatest missionary the church had ever known. They didn’t know the amazing things that would happen to them from that time to their last days. They didn’t know the horrible things that would happen to them along the way.
They didn’t know that. But this they did know: that Jesus, who once was dead, is alive. They knew that their lives were hidden with Christ on high. They knew that Jesus said, if anyone would follow me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.
So, they could walk through whatever else they needed to walk through, because their worth was not of this world.
Come today to our Lord’s Supper and taste the victory that truly matters, Christ’s victory over death. Come today and eat and drink the peace that surpasses your understanding that will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Come today and receive the strength that only your God gives, and receive it especially when your strength is running out.
The kingdom of heaven is like a family that prays not only for their father called to duty but also for all those who are protesting, praying for their souls, praying for healing, praying for help.
The kingdom of heaven is like a family praying for an end to anger, for an end to hatred, for an end to racism.
The kingdom of heaven is like a large church in a small town full of people that are often tempted toward anger, often tempted toward despair, often tempted toward anxiety and fear. They feel their emotions rising up on the inside, but in the end, they come back to the eternal truths that center their faith. The come back to the victory already won for them. They come back to Christ.
Amen and amen.
Worship Sermons & Letters